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Residents stand down on tranny stroll

Agree to police and 519 request to leave hookers alone

At the behest of Toronto police and the 519 Community Centre, residents who live around Homewood Ave and Maitland Pl — near Toronto’s bustling tranny hooker stroll — have agreed to stop late-night street protests against the sex workers who ply their trade in the neighbourhood.

Det Matt Moyer of Toronto Police 51 Division says harassing street sex workers because you don’t want them there is not the way to go. Moyer says the protests were too militant.

“It might disrupt something we’re trying to put in place,” says Moyer, who has policed the stroll for 11 years. “You got a problem, call [the police]. Don’t do our job for us. We’ll deal with it.”

Moyer says he is fronting a new initiative to address disruptive street walkers in the 51 Division jurisdiction. One of the objectives, he says, is to keep sex workers with pending criminal charges out of the area. Another objective is to help train The 519’s outreach workers to write better reports.

The reports outreach workers submit, says Moyer, do not provide information that’s accurate enough to prove sex workers at Homewood and Maitland are either in danger or causing problems.

“We have little to nothing documented in our database,” he says. “It’s time to step in and do more training so we’re getting solid, credible information.”

While Kyle Scanlon, trans program coordinator at The 519, appreciates that police are “trying to meet us in the middle,” he says he does not foresee allowing police officers to train outreach workers in the near future.

“It’s not an outreach worker’s job to collect evidence for the police,” says Scanlon.

Conflict between neighbourhood residents and sex workers is nothing new. Every couple of years things seem to come to a head between residents, who blame sex workers for increasing violence, drug use and trade, vandalism and late-night noise; and sex workers who need a place to meet tricks. 

The issue arose most recently last summer when some residents formed the Homewood Maitland Safety Association (HMSA), launching a campaign of late-night demonstrations in an effort to shoo sex workers from the area. Their tactics have involved picketing, photographing and videotaping johns and their licence plates and, according to some working girls, shining flashlights at hookers as they work. The HMSA denies the flashlight allegation.

Paul Hyde, a member of the HMSA who writes a weekly synopsis of disruptive sex trade activity in the neighbourhood which he then forwards to residents and city councillor Kyle Rae, says the decision to stop the demonstrations was met with mixed reactions within the association.

“Not all members were happy to suspend the walks,” wrote Hyde in an email to Xtra. “We’re hopeful that The 519 and 51 Division’s efforts are successful and we won’t have to return. The HMSA only wants a solution to the violence, noise and vandalism, so most were more than eager to cooperate.”

The last two weekends of July were “dramatically more quiet,” says Hyde, crediting crappy weather and the long weekend. But, he adds, “The first two weeks were as bad as ever,” with street fights and loud banter among girls and johns keeping residents up at night.

A sex worker named Phoebe, who works the stroll, told Xtra in June that some girls there always seem to be drunk and high and do cause problems but that not all sex workers should be blamed.

“There is a group of girls who make it bad for everyone,” she said. “I tell them to keep the noise down and respect the neighbours but they don’t care.”

In May the HMSA agreed to suspend demonstrations for three weeks to give outreach workers from The 519 time to engage with the girls, in a hostility-free way, about respecting neighbours’ property. But the HMSA resumed protests at the end of that period. Scanlon says the HMSA’s latest decision to suspend demonstrations “is an opportunity to continue what we started.”

If residents are threatening sex workers, “It doesn’t make it easier to think rationally or talk calmly,” says Scanlon.

A community meeting on the issue is being planned for later in the fall.